What is an eRumor?
An eRumor is virtually everything that you receive via email in which someone feels the urge to warn everyone about some terrible threat or impending doom. These emails have been known to come in a variety of forms. To name some:
- Ollie North warned of Osama Bin Laden
- Forward an email to help a badly burned 6-year-old injured in a fire at Wal-Mart
- MS-13 gang initiation warning
- Car jackers who leave a piece of paper on your rear window
- Stranded motorist who turned out to be Mrs. Nat King Cole
How can I find out if a forwarded email is true?
There are websites, such as TruthOrFiction, that investigate and either confirm or deny the validity of these emails. Prior to forwarding any email, search a reference website to determine if it is even worth forwarding.
According to TruthOrFiction, some of the sure-fire ways to recognize a false story are:
- The lack of good, first-hand information
- An appeal to the sensational, the “wow” factor
- An appeal to our worst fears
- The “I told you so” factor
- Details that don’t make sense
- Guilt trips
- Promises of money
- Insider information
Are any of these forwarded email stories true?
There are, in fact, some stories that are true. Warnings about credit card scams, phone call scams, and a great deal of the email virus warnings are true. Of course, all of these warnings involve what most people have known for years:
- Always keep your credit card information secure so that others cannot access it
- Never give your personal information (i.e. credit card number, social security number, etc.) to someone over the telephone if you did not initiate the phone call
- Never open an email attachment when the sender is not someone that you know
How do eRumors get started?
Most of these emails are either an urban legend that has simply been around for many years, or an over embellished story that just snowballed out of control. The latter being a modern version of the “telephone” game that many people played as children in grade school. You know the game where the children sit in a circle and the first child whispers something to the child next to them. The game proceeds around the circle and the last child repeats the sentence out loud, which is completely different from what the first child said.
How can we put an end to eRumors?
Albeit eRumors will never completely cease, you could take action to ensure that you don’t forward an email that you know is not true. It only takes a moment to verify the validity of an email.
Additionally, it is recommended to reply to the sender with a link to an investigative website informing them that the forwarded story is untrue. You could also include a little note letting them know that the website link you are forwarding is an excellent source to verify stories that circulate on the internet.
With any luck, people will become educated enough to know when and when not to forward an email.